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Preview: France and Team GB to battle for chance at Olympic gold

Jasmine Joyce

Great Britain and France have reached the semi-final stages of the women’s rugby sevens competition at the Tokyo Olympics and some of the stars of the Women’s Six Nations will now go head-to-head.

The winners of the tie will guarantee themselves a medal as they will advance to the gold-medal match where they will take on Fiji or Rio silver medallists New Zealand.

Les Bleues and Team GB will face off at 3:30BST/4:30CEST in Tokyo for a place in the final, with the loser still in with a shout of a podium as they go to the bronze-medal match.

Route to the semi-finals 

France are unbeaten in their march to the semi-finals having got their campaign off to a winning start against the dangerous Fiji.

Former Six Nations player Fanny Horta scored a try in their 12-5 win, with Seraphine Okemba getting the other try.

France then backed up that victory with a comfortable 40-5 win over Brazil, Jade Ulutele was the star of the show scoring one and converting two tries.

Great Britain began their campaign to avenge their fourth-place finish last time out in Rio with a tight win over the Russian Olympic Committee, co-captain Abbie Brown getting both of Team GB’s tries in a come-from-behind 14-12 victory.

They then fell to a 26-21 defeat to New Zealand, throwing away a 21-point lead which had been provided by Six Nations stars Megan Jones, Helena Rowland and Jasmine Joyce.

Team GB much improved on day two  

The second day of play saw Team GB take their chances, overcoming Kenya 31-0 with Joyce and Jones again on the scoresheet as Scotland’s Lisa Thomson crossed the whitewash moments after making her debut for Great Britain.

France also won 31-0, defeating Canada to confirm their places in the quarterfinals where they came up against China.

Despite China’s Minglin Tang racing away for the first score of the game, France reeled the Chinese back in with two tries from Okemba, with Drouin and Anne-Cecile Ciofani also contributing to the 24-10 win.

Great Britain came through a tough quarterfinal against the US, winning 21-12 to confirm their place in the semi-final and 2021 Six Nations winner Alex Matthews was pleased with her team’s performance.

She said: “Backing each other up, trusting each other to make those one-on-one hits. They are strong runners. 

“We’ve got some of the smallest girls, we’re not a big team. Defence wins you the game and makes it easier once you’ve got the ball.”

Teammate Celia Quansah is focused on tomorrow’s crucial match: “The grit and determination we showed, especially in that defensive set at the end was unreal. We showed heart like no other and I’m just so proud of the team.

“We know what we’ve got to do – fuel up and come back firing tomorrow.”

A Six Nations showdown in the semifinal 

There are Grand Slams and Six Nations title-winners galore in the semi-final match-up, England’s Rowland, Matthews and Jones the most recent players to taste success earlier this year.

They are guided by the experienced Natasha Hunt who was part of the 2020 Grand Slam victory for England before missing out with injury this time around.

Shannon Izar who has been on target with the boot so far was part of France’s Grand Slam win in 2018 alongside the likes of Ulutele and Drouin.

The teams will meet in the early hours of Saturday morning knowing victory will confirm their place on the Olympic podium for the first time.